Basra accident won't destabilize relationship between Iraq and Britain

Clashes between British troops and Iraqi police in Basra will not undermine the relationship between the two countries, the Iraqi prime minister stresses.

Violence erupted in the southern Iraqi city Monday when British troops stormed a police station to free two commandos who had been arrested by Iraqi police. The soldiers were subsequently found in the custody of Shiite militias.

"At this time, where there are forces in Basra and all over Iraq, such things are expected to happen," Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said after talks in London with British Defense Secretary John Reid. "As for us, it will not affect the relationship between Iraq and Britain, and we hope that together we will reach ... the truth of the matter."

The incident in Basra, which also saw British troops attacked by a crowd with stones and Molotov cocktails, has raised questions about the role of Britain's 8,500-strong force in Iraq, and doubts about the timetable for handing over power to local security forces.

On Wednesday, Reid said "there has not been a fundamental breakdown in trust between the British government and the Iraqi government." He vowed British troops would stay in Iraq until the country was stable.

But Monday's violence exposed how much remains to be done. Iraq's national security adviser said insurgents have joined the ranks of Iraq's security forces, and acknowledged that he did not know the extent of the infiltration.

Mouwafak al-Rubaie told British Broadcasting Corp. television late Tuesday that "Iraqi security forces in general, police in particular, in many parts of Iraq, I have to admit, have been penetrated by some of the insurgents, some of the terrorists as well."

Col. Bill Dunham, chief of staff for the multinational force in Basra, acknowledged that there were "rogue elements" within the Iraqi police.

According to Al-Jaafari Iraq had made "great progress" in rooting out religious and political sectarianism within the security forces, the AP reports.

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